Online Annual Parish Meeting held on Thursday 28th May 2020 at 7:30PM via ‘Zoom’
Present: Nick Humphries (Parish Council Chairman), David Hunter-Miller (Parish Clerk), Anthony Hopkins (County Councillor), Colin Pemberton (Parochial Church Council), five members of the public
1. Introduction and welcome
Nick Humphries opened the meeting and welcomed residents.
Apologies were received from Melanie Clarke (Chair of Abbots Morton Village Hall Committee), David Wilkinson (District Councillor), Audrey Steel (District Councillor), Noel Fowler (Parish Paths Warden).
3. To approve the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 9th May 2019
It was resolved to adopt the minutes as a true record and these would be duly signed.
4. Matters arising from those minutes (if any)
There were no matters arising.
5. To receive a report from the County Councillor
Prior to the start of 2020 the WCC agenda was largely dominated by the more usual issues of funding for adult social care, trying to improve Childrens Services, and Highways matters. All of these represent significant challenges for WCC, especially as the costs of social care continue to increase. During the winter, the weather and associated flooding caused significant damage around the County. Whilst the Harvington Division was -not hit as hard as some, there was some damage to property, and inconvenience to road users trying to get to and from Abbotts Morton, not least with the flooding across the road at Radford and in other parts of the Lenches.
Then came C19. It’s hard to summarize the impact of this yet. Whilst essential parts of the WCC service provision have been maintained very well, much non-essential work has been postponed, and it will take some time to catch-up or recover. There will also be an economic cost, but WCC is working with partner organizations to plan for the recovery. As services hopefully return to normal, there will doubtless be problems, but I would like to thank the many people I know have looked after their neighbours and others.
6. To receive a report from the District Councillors
I would normally be advising the Parish of annual progress with the day-to-day business of the District Council, including its financial situation, council tax, and performance in core activities including refuse collection/recycling, grass cutting, etc.
But this year’s activities have of course been hugely overshadowed by one issue – Coronavirus/Covid-19.
The Council has been able to maintain vital activities such as refuse collection, but a large part of its resources have inevitably been concentrated on the response to the pandemic.
This response includes our response to rough sleepers during Covid-19 and the work of the Covid-19 Homeless Taskforce.
As of 28 May, 2,347 grants have been made to businesses in Wychavon totalling £27.4m. We continue to try and locate those businesses that are eligible but have still yet to apply.
Many Council staff are working from home and Council meetings are being held by video link just as this meeting is. Site visits for planning and enforcement purposes have largely been suspended except for urgent cases.
Data released on 28 May showed there were 250 confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded in Wychavon; as of 15 May there have been 93 deaths in Wychavon from Covid-19 of which 44 were in care homes.
As always, if any Parish member has any issues or problems, particularly at this difficult time, I will be pleased to help where possible.
7. To receive a report from the Police
No report was available.
8. To receive a report from the Residents’ Association
No report was available.
9. To receive a report from the Parochial Church Council
Every year is a memorable year for St Peter’s church but this year more than most.
It’s really surprising how much goes on in the church and in the community and it’s only when it all comes to a sudden halt that it strikes you quite how much activity there is.
Coronavirus Covid-19 forced us to close the church on March 17th 2020, instantly halting the use of the church building for services and prayer and forcing the cancellation of community events in the village hall such as the Flower Festival Lunch and Harvest Supper.
Undaunted, the Rector, the Rev Canon Richard Thorniley and the Rev Chris Sheehan, have used the internet to continue holding services. Daily morning services are held via Zoom with anyone who wishes to join in being able to take part.
Sunday Services have been constructed each week to serve the ARCH Benefice and the Inkberrow group of churches, working together as the North Avon Group. Contributions (prayers, readings, sermon and hymns) are recorded in individuals’ homes and sent via Dropbox to Brian Telford at Inkberrow who edits them together into a video available on YouTube each Sunday.
Spiritually the church has been able to continue its mission. Financially, Covid-19 has been a big blow.
Income from collections at services stopped instantly. Our big two fundraising events, the Flower Festival Lunch and the Harvest Supper will not take place this year leaving a substantial hole in our income , while we, of course, have ongoing costs in running the church building and churchyard and in contributing our Parish Share to the Worcester Diocese to go towards the salaries of clergy. Every year we need to raise in excess of £10,000.
We still plan to replace the steps at the entrance to the churchyard. We were planning to apply to the Diocese for a Faculty for permission to proceed, but that has been placed on hold while Government restrictions on church use still exist.
So what had been happening before Covid-19?
No More Rising Damp
The biggest development of the year was the French Drains project, costing almost £10,000, which was started in the summer 2019 and completed in December. It was vital to stop damp rising, particularly on the north side of the church and there are already visible improvements to the condition of the walls.
The old concrete-lined drains were installed in the 1950’s and had broken down. The new soakaway system is more in keeping with this ancient building and more sustainable in the long term. Plastic guttering has also been replaced, where necessary, with a cast iron system similar to that in place in previous times.
We are enormously grateful to a number of individuals who very generously made donations to the cost of the work.
It’s been a busy year for our churchwarden Kevin Clarke, overseeing the French Drains Project and I would like to express here our gratitude to his service
I would like to thank two people in our Financial Department… to Lynne Pemberton who has carried out the role of Treasurer since Terry Brewster stood down in March, presenting financial reports to PCC meetings with the solid support of Tim Jones who draws up those reports and so brilliantly looks after all our financial workings. Tim has now taken on the role of Treasurer and we don’t know where we would be without him.
Our Flower Fund pays for bouquets of flowers or plants to give a morale boost and a pick-me-up for those in the parish who’ve been ill enough to have spent time in hospital. We’d prefer never to have to use it but life’s not like that and every recipient has told us how much they have appreciated the gift. Roma Jones looks after our Flower Fund and we give her our grateful thanks.
Flower Arranging: we thank so many people who take their turn to create the floral arrangements which make the church look so beautiful. Peggy Clarke has been in charge of the rota of those volunteers for many years but this year she decided it was time for someone else to take on the task. We are enormously grateful to Peggy, a stalwart of the PCC. We’re pleased to say that, although she is not a member of the PCC, Gill Barker has taken on the role.
Flower Festival and Lunch: The 2019 Flower Festival once again saw the church beautifully decorated and we’d like to congratulate everyone who contributed to this floral display. The annual Flower Festival lunch was really splendid. Huge thanks go to organiser Lynne Pemberton and to Roma Jones for her innovative way of serving Coronation chicken on a bed of little gem lettuce. The lunch made £480.13 which was a little down on the previous year’s £515.50
Harvest Supper was a very good evening with 63 attending including some new faces in the community. Our thanks once again to Lynne Pemberton and all who helped in any way. Bar profits were up, food costs were slightly up but raffle profits were down by £300. Total profit was £1,035. (compared to £1,463 the previous year).
Carols on the Green went into the church because the amount of rain we had in December meant the village green was not in a good enough state. There were a large number of singers in church and a fabulous atmosphere.
The Carol and Gift Service was enhanced by the making of Christingles. The candlelight brought a special atmosphere to the church and a huge number of gifts were taken away for distribution by Action for Children.
The Christmas Eve service is an essential feature of the year was well attended
As well as family services every fortnight and Holy Communion services each fortnight St Peter’s holds special services at various times of the year.
The Remembrance Service was led jointly by Lynda Payne and Colin Pemberton and thanks were given to Terry Brewster for the many Remembrance Services he has superbly led over the years.
Mothering Sunday was delightful and well attended with posies of flowers distributed by children to mothers in the congregation.
A Rogation “walking service”, was held in May, working our way through the village, giving thanks for the elements of creation such as livestock, field, orchards and gardens.
The PCC would like to thank all those people in the parish who diligently and willingly lock and unlock the church on a daily basis. That so many are prepared to be on our unlocking rota is a heartening sign of a community giving to others and our thanks go to Lynda Payne for her work in gathering people together onto the locking rota. Fewer and fewer churches remain open all day every day and it’s something we aim to continue at St Peter’s. Sadly Covid 19 enforced a closure.
New Parish Giving Scheme
The PCC voted to join this relatively new scheme of making monthly donations to St Peter’s by Direct Debit instead of putting money into an offertory plate. It was agreed that members of the PCC would trial it initially to iron out any snags, then we would seek to encourage others to take part eg those at the moment doing covenants, replacing their Standing Orders.
For two month’s at the end of 2019 our Rector, Rev Canon Richard Thorniley, embarked on a sabbatical: Rev Chris Sheehan took on the cover required during Richard’s absence. .
The Year Ahead
The coming year should see us starting work on the next big project, the long desired replacement of the main steps. A lot of preparatory design work has already been done by our architects and a Faculty application will now be made as soon as we can. This project will cost in the region of £8,000 and we hope for generous support from the community.
About the Parochial Church Council
The Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s, Abbots Morton is a charity which cooperates with the incumbent in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the church… pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical (PCC (Powers) Measure 1956). Members:
• The Reverend: Canon Richard Thorniley
• Churchwarden: Kevin Clarke
• Elected members: Lynda Payne, Lynne Pemberton, Colin Pemberton, Peggy Clarke, Roma Jones, Terry Brewster.
• Treasurer: Tim Jones
• Electoral Roll Officer: Lynne Pemberton
• Honorary Secretary: Colin Pemberton
10. To receive a report from the Village Hall Committee
This report has two distinct sections, before Covid and after the outbreak.
Until March 16th 2020, the village hall had continued to be a well-used activity venue.
Yoga classes had become very popular and our hall is perfect for them. We had Hay Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; Hatha Yoga on Tuesday evenings and we’d also had two Hay Yoga workshops on Saturdays with more in prospect.
Pilates classes on Monday nights have now been running for three years and the JUMP ballet classes for children after school on Wednesdays for four years. These activities have provided hugely valuable income streams.
Bookings for parties and wedding receptions were continuing strongly. The hall looks amazingly special when dressed up for these events due to the high standards of maintenance and cleanliness that we provide, along with our outstanding facilities above and beyond other halls in the area.
Five-star reviews keep coming in for us on the Halls for Hire website.
Our modern kitchen facilities are now well established and have proved very popular, winning the approval of professional caterers at many of the events this year.
Free Wi-Fi in the hall, installed this year, adds even more rental potential, extending our potential user market and we thank the Parish Council for their contribution towards the cost.
The latest addition to our facilities, in January, was a new projector unit and a large screen kindly donated in memory of Val Duck by Peter Duck and his family. The family bought the equipment and installed it in the village hall on 26th February to enable a live relay of Val’s funeral service from St Peter’s Church. More than 100 mourners filled the church and 50 more watched in the village hall. We sent the Ducks our warmest condolences and many thanks.
As a committee we had regular fund raising events continuing to operate our policy of a 50:50 split of the proceeds with a chosen charity.
During the year we held another Tea for Tinnitus, a Quiz Night for Acorns Children’s Hospice and an Xmas Fayre for Alzheimer’s Research UK. I would like to thank everyone who helped out in some way for making these events a great success. In total, we raised £445 for the charities and the same for the village hall.
Unfortunately, not all initiatives were successful. The proposed quarterly “Popup” restaurant did not go ahead due to opposition from some residents with concerns about parking and unfounded fears of an influx of outsiders coming into the village. As a committee, we felt this was a great shame; this was an initiative to try to raise some community spirit and tackle the rising issue of loneliness within the community. Indeed at the time of cancellation all bookings were from Abbots Morton residents.
Support for the hall from local residents has continued to grow and we look forward to further involvement by residents in the coming year. If you shop online, one easy way to help is to register with EasyFundraising and name ‘Abbots Morton Village Hall’ as the cause you want to support. Retailers pay a small percentage of your spend to our account and to date our 23 EasyFundraisers have raised £680.
Amazon have also started making donations through Amazon Smile… and to date they’ve sent us £11.74.
New energy-efficient lights have been installed in the village hall. The old fluorescent strip lights throughout the building were replaced with LED strips bringing electricity savings of around 70%. We are grateful to Wychavon District Council for a grant of £1,359 through its New Homes Bonus scheme and to Abbots Morton Parish Council for a grant of £500. We would also like to thank County Councillor Anthony Hopkins for a £300 grant from his Divisional Fund and to our village hall committee member, Sarah Dykes for her gift of £150 towards the project which cost a total of £2,653. The village hall funds contributed £344.50.
Your support for the village hall brings in essential income which we put to good use in maintaining and improving the fabric of the building. In July we employed WomenBuild to repaint all the wooden window frames and the woodwork at the main entrance.
Regular servicing of necessary systems and safety tests continue in their timely fashion.
Our next project is to replace the outdated and inefficient heating system in the hall. It’s a major project and research is currently underway to make sure we make the best choice.
We are delighted to have two new Trustees.
We first welcomed Pat Willingale to the Village Hall Committee. Pat’s husband Martin, who sits on the Parish Council, then agreed to be a Parish Council representative on the CH Committee. Husband and wife teams can be very effective and we know that the duo from Chestnut cottage will bring humour, enthusiasm and expertise to the committee.
We are eternally grateful to Sarah Dykes for taking on the role as Treasurer. With her usual efficiency, Sarah has kept our accounts fully auditable, with regular spreadsheets and cost awareness projects and updates. Many thanks again to Tim Jones, our auditor, for the end of year audit/ balance.
As always the unfading commitment of the Pembertons to the success of the VH does not go un-noted. Colin takes on more than his fair share as PRO and Bookings Officer, regularly showing our facilities to potential hirers, locking and unlocking at events. Lynne, as Secretary, keeps us up to date and informed of local and UK VH initiatives, making sure we meet our obligations.
We would like to say a big Thank You to Antony Bunce, who has stepped down from the village hall committee because of other commitments. We’re grateful for Antony’s insights and particularly all his work over the years in bringing us Band Nights and Indian Summers.
Thanks also go to a former resident Phil Farmiloe who, although now living in Abberton, continues to pay for the springtime cutting of our main hedge. Thank you Phil.
Coronavirus Covid – 19
On March 5th, aware of our responsibilities to provide a safe space for users, we put up notices on the entrance doors urging all users to go straight to the washrooms on entry and thoroughly wash their hands, and similarly to wash hands before leaving. The Hirers were responsible for using clinical-grade wipes which we provided to wipe down all door and toilet handles before they left. This was a responsible approach to leave the hall in a condition that the next users would like to see.
However, eleven days later on March 16th, we took the decision to close the hall. At the same time users were cancelling their bookings.
This has obviously has had repercussions for our finances. Some hirers have been happy for us to hold on to the deposits they had paid in anticipation of holding their event at some point in the future. Others have had their deposits and fee refunded.
Our income loss, assuming we don’t re-open before the end of November, will be £2,376.
We are continuing to pay bills. Since we closed on March 16th we have paid out a total of £367 and we will obviously continue to pay further bills as they come in.
We have always been working on the basis that our annual running costs are at least £2,000 and we had, until Covid, been keeping our heads well above water, indeed investing surpluses into new developments and improvements to the hall.
As of Monday this week we had £2,023 in our main account and we faced an ongoing depletion of our funds.
Earlier this month, to help small businesses, the Government set up a one-off COVID 19 Small Business Grant of £10,000. We were advised by Wychavon District Council that village halls were eligible to register for it and we duly registered for it on 13th May.
I’m very pleased to say that the £10,000 grant was deposited in the village hall’s Treasurer’s Account this Tuesday morning (26th May).
Our account now stands at £12,023 and the Instant Access Account stands at £718.
The grant gives us financial security and shields us from the potential for substantial loss of income from Covid closure, which would have seriously threatened our plans for major investment in a new, energy-efficient heating and hot water.
It had been another year of progress, quality upgrading and financial stability. We have handled the Covid closure well and we will now be working intently to ensure a safe and smooth re-opening of the hall, whenever that may be.
Chair, Abbots Morton Village Hall
11. To receive a report from the Neighbourhood Watch
It is a continued disappointment that there appears to be no interaction between Neighbourhood Watch and registered individuals (as we were given to believe from their presentation at a previous meeting). The registration data is used by NW to understand where schemes are located geographically, which in turn gives the necessary information for their sponsors (Police, local authorities and commercial companies) who give donations; they can see where investment is needed to promote growth and provide support for these communities (allocating resources to these areas for signage etc.).
Membership registration is also used at a national level by NW and the Home Office to assess the level of support and investment each region gets.
As regards interaction with registered members, their focus is on developing the NW Facebook page and encouraging people to make use of social media, working on a ‘community’ led movement within their own communities to share safety and crime information, and to ‘watch out’ for each other (I know that the previous co-ordinator sent out emails to members but nearly all of them were not relevant to the local area).
I have trialled the ‘WeAlert’ app on my phone but I found that nothing was relevant to this area, early days I think for this app to be of any use to us.
However, the good news is that Neighbourhood Watch have finally launched their new website this month which I’m led to believe is much more user friendly. The old web site was www.westmercianw.org.uk and the new one is www.ourwatch.org.uk.
I believe that West Mercia Police are considering joining the Neighbourhood Alert messaging system (the systems side of NW) which would be good if they did as members would then get messages sent by the Police through Neighbourhood Alert.
We did agree that once the new website was up and running it would be a good idea to organise another door drop to update residents and encourage new people to register. However, I think we should wait at least another six months to do this so that we know the website is running properly and also given the current ‘virus’ situation. Let’s wait to see how this goes.
On a final point, I do think that the local village Facebook page and the new system/app ‘Next Door’ have been an excellent help and support in the local community, almost acting like a local newspaper with news, help and information – so it may be an idea to encourage people in our next door drop to use both their local community Facebook page and those that haven’t should look at using the ‘Next Door’ app too.
Cllr Karen Brighton
Abbots Morton Parish Council
12. To receive a report from the Footpaths Officer
This report details the activities I have undertaken as Parish Path Warden for Abbots Morton during 2019. It should be read in conjunction with the attached table.
Monitoring the footpaths
During the year I have monitored all 58 footpaths on at least one occasion apart from those on land associated with an investigation into a report of an aggressive dog which I was advised to avoid. In total I have carried out 119 visits to individual footpaths on more than 20 different days, representing over 60km travelled.
For the most part the footpaths were well maintained and easily passable. The table shows 16 paths where there are ongoing issues that were not resolved on the last occasion I monitored the path (also noted).
During the year I cleared vegetation using hand tools provided by Worcestershire CC at various points. These included parts of 500, 541 and 543.
I made sure that reports were made where work was required beyond my remit, for example replacing/repairing stiles and footbridges.
Work carried out by Worcestershire CC
In addition to the minor work I was able to carry out WCC completed the following during 2019:
• A volunteer work party was organised to clear vegetation on 531 and 534
• Signposts were installed on 544 and 547
• Fallen trees were cleared on 550
• Vegetation was cleared by a contractor on 511, 512 and 513
Parish Paths Warden
13. To receive the Annual Report of the Parish Council by the Chairman
Nick Humphries presented a report on the activities of the Parish Council.
It had been a relatively quiet year for the Parish Council, building on the successes of previous years. The general work of the council has continued, including commenting on planning applications, assisting with the individual issues of parishioners and working closely with other community organisations and groups.
Since the last Annual Parish Meeting we have been pleased to welcome Alan Shepherd to the council. However there are still two vacancies and anyone interested in filling these positions should contact David Hunter-Miller, Parish Clerk.
Thanks were extended to Martin Willingale who has only been on the council for a short time but has already proven invaluable and to Karen Brighton for her work on the Neighbourhood Watch.
Parish Council Chairman
14. To receive a report on the Parish Council’s finances
The Clerk confirmed that the Parish Council’s 2019/20 accounts and audit paperwork would be published online shortly. A summary of the figures is as follows:
Opening balance 01/04/19: £12,014.51
Receipts for period 01/04/19 to 31/03/20: £7,114.89
Payments for period 01/04/19 to 31/03/20: £7,443.97
VAT recoverable 01/04/19 to 31/03/20: £32.94
Closing balance 31/03/20: £11,685.43
15. To invite the public to raise any matters of interest
A parishioner raised concern regarding children returning to schools following relaxing of the Coronavirus lockdown; locally, it was felt that Church Lench First School did not have the space to successfully manage social distancing. It was suggested that monitoring should be undertaken when the schools are reopened to continually assess the impact of Coronavirus and the success of control measures. Anthony Hopkins would take the comments and suggestions back to Worcestershire County Council. Thanks were extended to all teachers for their hard work throughout the pandemic.
A parishioner commented that face masks, visors and gloves should be considered as a matter of routine as they have shown to have a positive effect on reducing the impact of the virus.
It was felt that the village Facebook page had been very useful during the lockdown and thanks were extended to the page administrators.
The meeting closed at 8:32PM.